By Satish Purohit February 2011 Seers, Mystics and Teachers say the world is at the cusp of an important shift in consciousness. It is important that we raise conscious children who become partners, agents of change and winners in this new world. Starting YoungThere are organisations across the world like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living, Chinmaya Mission Bal Vihar (5-12 years) and Chinmaya Yuva Kendras (14-28 years), and Sadhu Vaswani Mission that offer spiritual training through field trips, social service projects, games, story-telling and music for free or at nominal charges. Some organisations also bring out magazines for children like Sri Sathya Sai Bal Vikas magazine, Sadhu Vaswani Mission’s Mira, Chinmaya Udghosh and Akram Express by the Dada Bhagwan organisation. “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives,” said Henry David Thoreau, the sage of Boston on the nature of samskaras. Spiritual ParentingIn the Hindu tradition, parents are expected to pass on five basic spiritual beliefs to their children. Sarva Brahman: There is one Supreme Being, all-pervasive, transcendent, creator, preserver, destroyer, manifesting in various forms, worshiped in all religions by many names, the immortal Self in all. Mandira: God, other divine beings and highly evolved souls exist in unseen worlds. Temple worship, fire ceremonies, sacraments and devotionals open channels for us to receive their blessings, help and guidance. Karma: We get what we deserve. There is justice in the world and the hereafter. Samsara-Moksha: Souls keep learning from one birth to another till they all unite with God. Veda guru: The scriptures and awakened souls should be honoured. -Hinduism Today magazine “You are such a fool,” my father told me recently, “How come my granddaughter is so smart?” “We are improving with every generation,” I told him. Evolution! I was a problem child. All through my school days, not a year passed when my father was not called to the school. If I was not beating someone up, I was getting beaten up or doing something outrageous like peeing on the leg of a classmate’s trousers. While my mother’s love for me was unconditional, the only time my father spoke to me was to reprimand me for something or the other. Dad would constantly poke fun at the way I walked. ‘Don’t drag those sandals. Don’t you have any strength?’ He would mimic the way I would curl my fingers when my hands were free. ‘Do you have polio?’ Every time I was handed a glass of milk, he would tell me, “Don’t drop the glass.” I would live in fear of dropping things and would do it very often. “It was expected of you. Great job! Now that you have done it, are you happy?” he would ask. I was in Std XII when I told my father that I wanted to be a journalist. “It is not something that everyone can do. It calls for a lot of talent,” he responded. I believe I had to put in a lot of years undoing the damage of those summary put-downs and thoughtless remarks. I had to became a door-to-door salesman, a waiter, a bookstore assistant, a high school teacher and a drill machine worker before I came to writing and journalism at the age of 27. It is good stuff for the autobiography I hope to write some day but it was such a pain when it was happening to me. There were positives too. As a family we went through a rather rough three-year phase when my father lost his job and could not land a new one. I had to skip college because there was no money for the fees. The really good thing about this time is that we stuck through the phase together. Back then, I did not realise what a great lesson I was learning in the business of raising a family. So, of course, there are parenting mistakes that I hope to avoid. I have decided, among other things, that whatever the provocation, nothing is as precious as a child’s self-esteem. That, of course, is my story – my cross. Obviously, I ask myself what sort of father I would prove to be. My daughter Sharanya turned five last October, and my son Keshav was born on November 25. A more conscious one, I hope, than my father, who is incidentally great friends with me now. With my daughter, he won’t even raise his voice. Defining parenting To begin with, what is the role of a parent? What are the parameters of good parenting? Are there any parameters in the first place? Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in their book, Raising Great Kids, list six goals of parenting: Survival, self-sufficiency, competence, problem-solving, morality and religion. You may want to reword some of the goals (should religion be spirituality, for instance?) but they do cover most of the ground. “The business of both parent and teacher is to enable and to help the child to educate himself, to develop his own intellectual, moral, aesthetic and practical capacities and to grow freely as an organic being, not to be kneaded and pressured into form like an inert plastic material,” said the Mother of Pondicherry. There is, of course, the all-important question of providing the children with an education that helps parents reach these goals. The task is to gift the children wings as well as roots. The gift of roots assumes particular importance in a world where everything is changing every moment. The movement is herding people towards homogeneity in thinking, appearance, and consumption. Does your child speak, read or write in his or her mother tongue? Do you? Does she have an understanding of the traditions and culture of your community or is TV her sole cultural guide? Stressing on the importance of setting goals for oneself in parenting, Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, likens parenting to driving an aeroplane. He says, “Good families – even great ones – are off track 90 per cent of the time! The key is that they have to have a sense of destination. They know what the “track” looks like. And they keep coming back to it time and time again.” Covey explains that before a plane takes off, the pilots have a flight plan. “Wind, rain, turbulence, air traffic, human error and other factors act upon that plane. Robert Fulghum‘Don’t worry that children never listen to you, worry that they are always watching you. ”They move it slightly in different directions so that most of the time that plane is not even on the prescribed flight path! Throughout the entire trip there are slight deviations from the flight plan. Weather systems or unusually heavy traffic may even cause major deviations. Barring anything too major, the plane will arrive at its destination.” The flight path, Covey says, is the ideal metaphor for family life. The question, of course, is what is the destination? It is, in my opinion, to give them guidance that will help them succeed in life, whether in the physical, material, intellectual, emotional, or spiritual realms. Discipline and freedom Perhaps one of the central dilemmas confronting parents is the issue of discipline and freedom. While earlier generations both in the East and West favoured implicit obedience and a high level of discipline, the arrival of Sigmund Freud proved to be a watershed event in parent-child relationships, at least in the West. For the first time, modern society shone a torch into the subconscious and parents learnt to their horror that many of the ‘complexes’ and ‘psychoses’ that adults later developed had their roots in repressive upbringing. In the ’70s and early ‘80s, parents and even teachers veered in the opposite direction. Parents attempted to be ‘friends’ not guardians, and brought up their children with little or no discipline. Like all extremes, this one did not work either. “Freud’s doctrines have often been taken to mean that discipline should be suspended, controls eliminated — in sum, that the child should be continuously gratified. Freud, on the contrary, pointed out that denial and conflict were as essential a part of the process of growth as gratification, and he never minimised the child’s need for direction,” says Peter B Neubauer in the Atlantic magazine. Today, counsellors, therapists and enlightened parents recommend balance in this zone. Dr Ameeta Sanghavi Shah, integrated wellness therapist and relationship expert, says parents continue to be confused when it comes to disciplining. “Some are too strict and the kids refuse to take it lying down. Then there are those who indulge in flattery and think they are praising the kids,” says Dr Shah. “There was a time when kids were afraid of parents. Today, it is the other way around. In my practice, I meet parents as well as children suffering from anxiety and depression. Parenting is more complex than it ever was. The influence of media and peer pressure is higher than ever before. Life is uncertain. People lose jobs suddenly. It is not easy. While there is no golden rule that I have to offer, I believe respectful communication is the key. It boils down to seeing and doing it right. The way ahead is for parents to be firm where it is necessary but always remember to be respectful,” she adds. Teaching tolerance Jamuna Rangachari, writer and mother of two, says the primary purpose of parenting is to raise children who have a clear sense of right and wrong. “We should make efforts to ensure that children have a good sense of ethics and a clean character. Our children are growing up in a wo
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